The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island: Dana Alison Levy

Book: The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island
Author: Dana Alison Levy
Pages: 272
Age Range: 9-12

FamilyFletcherRockIslandThe Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island is the sequel to The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher (my review). Both books feature a family with two dads, four adopted sons (two brown-skinned and two white-skinned), two cats, and dog. This installment is set on a small island off the coast of New England, where the family is spending the month of August in a long-beloved cottage. The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island is an episodic story, with viewpoint shifts between the four boys and an entertaining mix of adventure and chaos. They're a bit like a more diverse, and more male, Penderwick family, off to Point Mouette

Although members of the family have been visiting the island since Papa was a boy, this summer things are a bit different. The old lighthouse located next to the family's cottage is fenced off, pending possible sale and/or repairs. A weird artist guy is prowling around making mysterious phone calls. The big house nearby that is usually empty is now occupied, and two teenage girls promise to be annoying. And the boys are discovering that as they get older, their divergent interests can lead to moments of isolation, even in the place that they look forward to visiting all year. 

The plot thread surrounding the looming fate of the lighthouse lends a helpful degree of narrative interest to The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island. While there are plenty of diversions around kayaking, picnics, and trying to teach a cat to swim (who knew that this was even possible?), Levy ties the story together around the lighthouse. A lemonade stand fundraiser for lighthouse repairs goes comically awry, and a common interest brings the boys together with their new neighbors. Through it all, Papa and Dad guide the boys with light hands, sympathetic shoulders, and occasional bouts of exasperation.

One thing I especially liked about The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island is that the family's status as a two-dad household is treated completely without comment. I've long been a fan of "incidental diversity" in children's literature, and I like to think that having read about the Fletchers would make kids equally blasé on meeting a new friend's same-sex parents. The book does take a direct look at racism, however. There's a scene in which second son Jax is presumed by a visitor to be a pickpocket, at least in part because of the color of his skin. This leads to discussions between Jax and his parents, and with an African-American uncle who can speak more from personal experience than can Jax's dads. Levy treats these discussions with a soft touch, not letting them overwhelm the book, and also not dismissing the fact of racism. Like this:

"Jackson," Dad repeated. "There are more good ones than bad. More Captain Jims and Officer Levees and Natalia Galindos and Elon Reynoldses than there are Sheldons. I wish there there were none of him. Seriously, if I could have one wish that would probably be it."

"I would wish for an invisibility cloak," Eli interrupted. He was sitting behind them, listening. "Think of how we could get back at Sheldon if we had that! Poison ivy leaves rubbed on the inside of his clothes. Burrs stuck in his hair." (Page 252)

And the topic moves on. The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island is most of all about the joys of summer, the outdoors and family. Like this:

Jax agreed, and then, since they had caught up to the others, the boys all had to listen to Frog sing his special ice cream truck song again and again until Jax threatened to gag him with his dirty sweat sock. And so they tumbled back to the Nugget, loud and laughing. The sun was low and warm in th esky, and the breeze had picked up, rustling and shivering the tall grass so that it looked like rippling water. The smell of the sea was stronger now, and Jax couldn't wait to head to the beach." (Page 22)

Spending a month in a small cottage with four boys, two cats, and a dog would send me over the edge, but reading about the experience for a couple of hours was quite enjoyable. Of course I'm not the target audience anyway. Kids who enjoy realistic fiction, about families and doing fun things outdoors are sure to enjoy The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island. There's such wish fulfillment in the idea of spending a month of summer in a beloved cottage on an island, with an ice cream truck stopping by regularly, and a puzzle to solve. Levy also includes quite a bit of mapcap, kid-friendly humor (particularly a memorable scene involving flying butter). In short, The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island is not to be missed. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: Delacorte Press (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: May 10, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Simon Thorn and the Viper's Pit: Aimée Carter

Book: Simon Thorn and the Viper's Pit
Author: Aimée Carter 
Pages: 304
Age Range: 8-12

SimonThornVipersPitSimon Thorn and the Viper's Pit is the second book in Aimée Carter's Simon Thorn / Animalgam series, featuring a race of people, hidden in plain sight, who can turn into animals. This review does contain spoilers for the first book. Simon, as introduced in Simon Thorn and the Wolf's Den, has discovered that he is the grandson of two ruthless, competing Animalgam leaders from different kingdoms.

After growing up in seclusion, Simon is now living in the L.A.I.R, a hidden school located beneath Central Park Zoo in New York City. He's living with an uncle who he's not sure about and his newly discovered twin brother. But his real loyalty is to his group of three Animalgam friends (and a friendly mouse). In Simon Thorn and the Viper's Pit, Simon and his friends set out on a road trip hoping to rescue Simon's kidnapped mother and keep an important artifact from his grandparents. 

This second book is full of relationship strife: particularly between Simon and his newly discovered family members and (sometimes) between Simon and his friends. Simon and his friend Winter are both Hybreds, children born of parents from different animal kingdoms (e.g. bird and mammal, in Simon's case). With conflict rampant between the kingdoms, their situations are inherently conflict-ridden. Winter, in particular, struggles with the rejection from the bird-Animalgams who raised her, after learning that she transforms into a reptile, not a bird. Simon is never quite sure who to trust. 

Carter also explores the discovery by the Animalgam kids of skills that go along with their animal transformations. For example, Simon's friend Jam turns into a dolphin, and has a remarkable sense of direction. For Simon, this is more complex than for most, because of a secret regarding his own transformations. A secret that he doesn't even share with his close friends. For all of the kids, learning to work with and gain strength from their dual natures becomes part of the process of growing up, a proxy for other adolescent growing pains. For example:

"Jam straightened and pulled his padlock from the pocket in his jeans, fiddling with the lock pick still stuck inside. "The general planned my whole life for me," he said. "I've had a daily schedule since I could walk. That's just how we do things underwater--if you leave no room for error, there won't be any. But there's no room for fun, either, or figuring things out on your own, and that's what I like to do. I like swimming off in the wrong direction to explore a cave I've never seen before, and I like having an hour or two when I can do anything I want. But our kingdom is so big that if everyone did their own thing, nothing would ever get done, so I always feel like I'm stuck in a routine I can't stand." (Page 143, ARC)

Occasionally the growing up messages imparted to the kids by the adults (or by each other) are a bit more overt than I might personally choose, but  I don't think that this dominates the story. Carter has taken a premise that most kids find fascinating (what if I could turn into an animal) and built a fully-realized, conflict-laden world around that. In Simon Thorn and the Viper's Den she introduces readers to the luxurious citadel of the reptile branch of the Animalgams. Other branches are sure to follow in future books. 

The Simon Thorn books are recommended for kids who enjoy reading about fantasy worlds hidden within our own, and for anyone who has ever wished they could transform into an animal. I look forward to reading about Simon and his friends' future adventures. 

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@KidsBloomsbury) 
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

#JoyOfLearning Articles from @TonySinanis + @cherandpete on #Reading + #Math

JoyOFLearningLogoLast week I found two articles related to the joy of learning that I thought were worth sharing in more detail. In the first, father and teacher Tony Sinanis urges educators to look more closely at school practices that take away the love of reading. In the second, math teacher Mr. C. shares his approach to moving from textbook-based math to real-world math, and the positive response from students. I'm encouraged to see these two teachers both encouraging others to make learning (whether reading or math) more joyful for students. 

HackingLeadershipGreat points here! A plea from a father to other #educators: Let's Not Kill The Love Of #Reading  @TonySinanis

Tony Sinanis: "The list could go on and on but the point is that somewhere along the line the reading Paul was doing became more about meeting someone else's expectations than they were about nurturing and growing his love for reading...

I do believe that some of our instructional practices (many of which I was guilty of using as a teacher myself) are actually killing the love of reading instead of nurturing it. When did we stop reading for the joy of reading? Although I am not a literacy expert or reading specialist myself I do think there are some things we could do to help grow a love of reading..."

Me: In this strong post, educator Tony Sinanis writes from a father's perspective about various educational practices that he's seen that appear to be taking away his son's love of reading. He offers suggestions based on his experience, and also references several other articles on this topic (including one by Pernille Ripp, whose work I share frequently). 

My own daughter is only six, but I already worry about the practices she will encounter in school that I fear will dampen her joy of reading. (Reading logs, accelerated reader programs, book reports, etc.). I do whatever I can at home to make sure that reading is something she enjoys and looks forward to. But I shouldn't have to guard against my daughter's school HARMING her love of reading, should I?

I think that Dr. Sinanis does a nice job of discussing this issue without blaming teachers, by focusing on how the drive for accountability leads to practices that book-loving parents can see are not helpful. 

Teaching math? Get REAL! | Teacher Mr. C shares his journey from #math textbooks to real-world lessons @cherandpete

Mr. C.: "(After putting away the textbook and taking kids outside for a snow-based lesson) The students were completely engrossed in their math and really seemed to be getting it. Their computations were based on something that was relevant, tangible and real to them....

Over the course of the following years I slowly strayed further and further from the math text to the point where I am today; the math text collects dust on shelves in the back of my room. Finding content is easy! Math is all around us and we have tools at our finger tips to bring real math to our students!"

Me: This post (via Dr. Doug Green) caught my eye because I try to do this with my daughter. Not only is real-world math more fun for kids, using real, tangible examples reinforces constantly that math is important in life. So much better than dry worksheets (no matter how those worksheets strive for relevance by using the names of kids in the word problems). 

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: January 6: The #Cybils Finalists, #ScreenTime + Book Controversies

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage (plus a couple of links from last week, when I did not post very much and did not do a roundup). Topics this week include: #arts, #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #GrowthMindset, #math, #RaisingReaders, easy readers, growing bookworms, reading, screentime, teaching, the Cybils Awards, and The Snowy Day.

Awards + Book Lists

Cybils-Logo-2016-Round-SmThe 2016 #cybils finalists are here!!  | Check out these well-written and kid-friendly titles, by category

#Cybils blog: 2016 Finalists: What’s Being Said | Some of our favorite reactions from authors, publishers, etc. 

31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 31 – The Best #PictureBooks of 2016 — @FuseEight  w/ links to another 30 #BookLists  #kidlit 

A Final Review Round-Up of Books for Beginning Readers from @mrskatiefitz  #EasyReaders #ChapterBooks #kidlit 


AFineDessertThe PC Police Crack Down on . . . Kids Books | Meghan Cox Gurdon @WSJ calls for creative space for #DiverseBooks 

A Renaissance of Children’s Literature re: quality + recognition of #DiverseBooks says @literacious  #kidlit

‘We need diverse books,’ they said. And now a group’s dream is coming to fruition. #DiverseBooks @washingtonpost 

E-Books + Screens

Science Says You Should Still Keep #Reading Print Books Over #e-Books | @good via @drdouggreen

KindleFireToddlers + Touchscreens: What Does the Research Actually Say? @MarnieKaplan @bellwethered @LarryCuban @drdouggreen

Growing Bookworms

Easy Ways to Get Your Kids (by age range) to #Read More This Year @ImaginationSoup @ReadBrightly   | Under-schedule! 

ReimagingLiteracyThree Keys to Creating Successful #Reading Experiences for less than avid readers from @pernilleripp  | Patience!

5 Reasons to Try #Audiobooks with Kids from @growingbbb  | e.g. #5 Adds more #ReadAloud time into your child's day

Growth Mindset

Pokemon Go Helps #Teachers Develop a #GrowthMindset | a reminder to try learning from kids by @mssackstein


Morning Notes: #kidlit news from @100scopenotes | I WANT the #SnowyDay stamps coming soon 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

LittleHouseBigWoodsWhat #kidlit will survive 100 years from now? David Thorpe reflects on #LittleHouse + #GreenGables  @AwfullyBigBlog

I can heartily agree with some of @mrskatiefitz 's 2016 #Kidlit #Reading Pet Peeves  - esp. "prescriptive + preachy"

ParentingUnplugged Ideas to Keep Kids Busy (+ connect with them) While You Cook Dinner from @momandkiddo  #parenting

Schools and Libraries

Four concepts to help #teachers in Moving from a Classroom of Kids to a Community of #Learners | @bethhill2829


The #arts help kids with #math, critical thinking + fine motor |Cory Rosenberg @MotherNatureNet  via @drdouggreen

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Little Big Girl: Claire Keane

Book: Little Big Girl
Author: Claire Keane
Pages: 32 
Age Range: 3-5

LittleBigGirlLittle Big Girl by Claire Keane is a particular take on what happens when a one-time only child becomes a big sister. We see various vignettes of "Little Matisse" as she scoots up onto the counter to "brush her little teeth" and puts on her "little shoes", shown as small compared to those of her parents. When she travels in the back of her parents' car, we see how little she is, compared to the big city. But when Matisse meets her baby brother, she has an instantaneous shift in perspective. Suddenly her clothes and shoes and fingers are big, in comparison to those of the baby. Keane tells us about this perspective shift in words, but she also shows us in pictures, with Matisse growing larger relative to the background in many of the later images. 

Two things make Little Big Girl stand out for me in the sea of new sibling books. The first is the use of the perspective shift, as described above. When else in life does someone go from being small to being big overnight? Keane's bold illustrations capture this beautifully. The second this is the sheer joy that Matisse shows in her every interaction with her brother, and his clear fascination with her. While I think that it's useful to have books in which the new sibling cries a lot and is annoying and takes away attention, I found Little Big Girl's pure focus on a positive to be rather a joy. 

Like this: 

"He slept in a little bed, and wore the clothes Matisse was now too big for.

Suddenly, Matisse realized that she wasn't actually little at all.

She was big."

The first line of this quote is accompanies by a tender image of Matisse kissing the sleeping baby in his cradle. The second shows her putting on his tiny little shoes. We see her medium-size shoes, still small compare to the surrounding shows of mom. And with "She was big" we see Matisse looking at herself in the mirror, a stylish preschooler with hands on hips, self-confident and growing more so before our very eyes. 

Little Big Girl is not a complex book, but it's a nice, positive spin on what happens when someone becomes a big sister or a big brother. The illustrations are heart-warming (just look at that cover above), and the minimal text will keep the attention of even the youngest of big sisters. Little Big Girl would make a great gift for anyone you know who is expecting a second child. Recommended!

Publisher: Dial Books (@PenguinKids) 
Publication Date: November 8, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: January 4: Happy New Year Edition

JRBPlogo-smallHappy New Year! Today, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also mathematicians and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have five book reviews (all picture books - I have several middle grade reviews coming up), one post with my daughter's latest literacy milestone (appreciating audiobooks), and one post with links that I shared recently on Twitter.  I also summarize my reading, and my daughter's reading, from 2016. 

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I read one middle grade and three adult novels. I read/listened to: 

  • Sarah Rubin: The Impossible Clue. Chicken House Press. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed December 18, 2016. Review to come.
  • Charlaine Harris: A Bone to Pick (Aurora Teagarden, Book 2). Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed December 21, 2016, on MP3.
  • Charlaine Harris: Three Bedrooms, One Corpse (Aurora Teagarden, Book 3). Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed December 26, 2016, on MP3. I like this rather light early series from Charlaine Harris. It does not (at least so far) feature the supernatural.
  • Cate Holahan: The Widower's Wife. Crooked Lane Books. Adult Thriller. Completed January 2, 2017. This is an intriguing thriller told from multiple perspectives that will keep readers guessing, and was my first read of 2017. 

Looking at my list of books read for 2016 overall, I find that I read 50 children's books (not counting picture books), 13 young adult books, and 90 adult books, for 153 books total. In past years I've had a very rough goal of 50 books in each of the three categories. Clearly, my reading has shifted quite a bit from YA to adult books. This reflects that fact that I do most of my reading these days in the form of audiobooks. Adult novels tend to be longer, and hence better value for my Audible credit dollars. I'm also dipping into a bit more nonfiction in my digital reading. I don't have any specific goals for reading in 2017. I always want more time to read, and that's something for me to work on. Of course my biggest reading-related goal will be ensuring that my daughter continues to enjoy reading. 

IllustratedHarryPotter1My daughter concluded the year with 1406 books logged as read by her or to her. This was only a slight decrease from last year's total of 1446 books, which is pretty good considering that a) we read far fewer books than usual in November and December; and b) she's been including longer chapter books in the mix. Her favorite series to read on her own right now is definitely The Lunch Lady series by Jarrett Krosoczka. I even snapped a photo of her lying on the floor reading one of the books while my husband and I were still finishing Christmas dinner. We're also up to Chapter Four of the first Harry Potter book, and she is quite excited about that.

It has been truly amazing watching how her reading ability (not to mention her level of interest in reading) has progressed over the year. Many thanks to all of the authors and illustrators whose work has inspired her, and to the teachers who have helped her along the way.

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. I wish you all a book-filled and peaceful 2017. 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

The Princess and the Frogs: Veronica Bartles & Sara Palacios

Book: The Princess and the Frogs
Author: Veronica Bartles
Pages: Sara Palacios
Age Range: 4-8

PrincessAndTheFrogsThe Princess and the Frogs is a reinvention of the classic Frog Prince story featuring a princess who wants a pet frog, but who has no interest whatsoever in princes. Princess Cassandra has everything she could ever want, except for a best friend. She decides that what she needs is a pet who matches her favorite green dress and will play with her all day. The Royal Pet Handler eventually brings her a frog. She has a great time playing with the frog, right up until she loves the frog so much that she kisses him on the head and he turns into a prince. He wants to marry her, but she just wants a pet frog, and so sends him off to work in the kitchens. This happens again, and again, until a solution is found. 

Who knew that ALL frogs were princes in disguise? Hopefully this is just in Cassandra's kingdom, because otherwise, things could get a bit awkward. I just love that Cassandra, confronted by prince after prince, keeps saying: "Princes aren't pets. I want a frog!" She's a delightful heroine, with a big smile, round glasses, and a determination to play and read. Who wouldn't like her? 

My favorite page is one in which Cassandra has sent all of the princes away and is attempting to prove to herself that she doesn't need anyone. We have:

"Cassandra played in the empty courtyard and read books in the silent library.

But even her favorite green dress didn't make her happy. And she still didn't have a friend."

This is accompanied by images of Cassandra jumping rope, while two bored servants turn the rope for her, and having a sad tea party with a real cake and a stuffed rabbit. Finally, she sits dejectedly in a hopscotch grid. The bored servants cracked me up. And perhaps I thought of my own only child, constantly begging for playdates (though never with frogs). But I do quite like the way that Sara Palacios brings Cassandra to life. 

The Princess and Frogs is an engaging story featuring a non-traditional princess with a refreshing twist on happily ever after. It will make kids, especially girls, laugh. Recommended for home or storytime use. 

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: November 15, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Literacy Milestone: Appreciating Audiobooks

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter recently became a convert to audiobooks. I had tried them before a couple of times, mostly when we were in the car, but they never really "took" with her. I remained hopeful, though, and kept a couple of children's audiobooks downloaded in the Audible app on my phone. The other day she was lamenting being bored during a short car ride and I suggested that we try a new book: Pippi Longstocking (by Astrid Lindgren, of course, and narrated by Christina Moore). And this one took. She would ask for "my audiobook" whenever the two of us were in my car together over the next few days.

Then yesterday she was looking for music on her tablet (a Kindle Fire) and happened upon the audiobook section. She spotted Pippi Longstocking and immediately asked if she could listen on the tablet. She was finished with her screen time for the day, but I decided that audiobooks shouldn't count, and I agreed. She sat and listened for a while, staring at the cover image on the tablet, before I suggested that she could color or something and listen at the same time. This completely did the trick. I left her home with my husband while I ran an errand, came back 45 minutes later, and found her still listening and coloring, happy as a clam. And when she finished the book shortly thereafter she was thrilled with her accomplishment.

This morning something came up about how a teen we know likes to read on her Kindle, and I said that enjoyed that, too. My daughter piped up with: "I like listening to audiobooks."

And so a convert is born! Next up: The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright. She is already charmed that the youngest Melendy, Oliver, is six in this book.  Special thanks to Katie Fitzgerald, whose recent post about listening to audiobooks with her daughters in the car nudged me to try again with my own. 

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Charles Darwin's Around-the-World Adventure: Jennifer Thermes

Book: Charles Darwin's Around the World Adventure
Author: Jennifer Thermes
Pages: 48
Age Range: 5-8

CharlesDarwinAroundTheWorldCharles Darwin's Around the World Adventure by Jennifer Thermes is a nonfiction picture book focused on a five-year voyage that Charles Darwin took as a young man that strongly influenced his scientific discoveries. Charles, chosen to be the naturalist aboard a ship mapping measurements of South America in 1831, writes about his wondrous findings and collects various natural specimens. The book describes some of Charles' key discoveries at various points along his voyage, while rendering Charles as a real, accessible person to young readers. We learn about Charles' sea-sickness, for example, and how he felt when he experienced his first earthquake. 

Here's a snippet, to give you a feel for Thermes' writing:

"Charles dug up bones of ancient sloth-like creatures, including a giant Megatherium, buried on the beach. How many of these huge creatures once roamed the earth? Why had they disappeared? 

He studied the rocks and tried to figure out how steep cliffs and flat plains were formed. Was it possible that the shape of the land affected the animals' survival?" 

Thermes' illustrations are detailed, with labeled maps interspersed between images of Charles and his experiences. A map on the book's end pages shows Charles' journey as a whole, with an accompanying timeline. Although the main text is fairly detailed in and of itself, there are also end notes, sources, fun facts, and recommendations for further reading. There is a LOT here to keep an interested elementary-schooler reading and studying. My six-year-old was utterly engaged in Charles' story, though we did not pore over map in detail. 

Charles Darwin's Around the World Adventure is top-quality narrative non-fiction, featuring a likable historical figure, interesting plant and animal facts, and well-mapped journey. This is a book that belongs in libraries and classrooms severing first through third graders, everywhere. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (@AbramsKids)
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Hap-pea All Year: Keith Baker

Book: Hap-pea All Year
Author: Keith Baker
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

Hap-peaAllYearHap-pea All Year is the fourth book in Keith Baker's The Peas series (which started with LMNO Peas). These are basically concept books featuring cute little pea-characters doing their thing in a world of large letters and numbers. Hap-pea All Year introduces preschoolers to the twelve months of the year, and their associated seasons and holidays. Each page spread shows the month written out in giant letters, with the tiny peas cavorting in seasonally appropriate ways, and brief rhyming text that highlights something about that month. For example:

"Hap-pea February! Deliver valentines.
Count to twenty-eight -- or leap to twenty-nine." 

This example may require explanation from a parent for younger listeners, though my six-year-old understood it just fine. My personal favorite text accompanies August:

"Hap-pea August! Bait a fishing hook.
Nap in cool shade, reread your favorite book."

But of course it's the illustrations that make Hap-pea All Year fun. In all cases, Baker uses colors and tone appropriate to the month in question (e.g. yellow for the sunny August). The letters are shown as lightly textured, with the subtle patterns containing extra hints about the month in question. The sky looms large in all of the page spreads, too, particularly July, with a star-filled sky. And the peas covert in endless, joyful ways, from sledding and skiing in January to camping in July to raking leaves and wearing Halloween costumes in October. One of the peas holds a little sign indicating the month number each month, and I'm sure there are other details that I missed on my first couple of reads through the book. 

Fans of The Peas series, and libraries serving preschoolers everywhere, will definitely and to add Hap-pea All Year to their collections. It's a book that offers mild-age appropriate educational facts, keeping things fun all the while. This is a book that simply made my daughter and I happier from reading it. Recommended!

Publisher: Beach Lane Books (@SimonKids)
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: December 23: #GrowthMindset, Holiday Advice + Young Advanced Readers

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #GrowthMindset, #ReadAloud, #STEM, bibliotherapy, book awards, book series, Escape Adulthood, free range kids, gift guides, growing bookworms, holidays, parenting, and play. Wishing all who celebrate it a joyful Christmas weekend!

Book Lists + Awards

Rescuers62 Essential (and less common) #ReadAloud Books for Families from @momandkiddo   #kidlit #BookList

Timely #BookList from @TrevorHCairney  | 26 Children's Books About the #ChristmasStory  #PictureBooks

Ten Fiercely Fabulous Female Heroines, a #BookList by middle school librarian Megan Fink @nerdybookclub  #YA

Tween-Friendly Romance Titles | The Upper Deck | #BookList from Tara Kron @sljournal  #kidlit

BlizzardSome of our favorites here: 10 Great Wintry #PictureBooks#BookList from @tashrow  | I would also add Blizzard

Not Entirely Human: A Top Ten List of Gay characters in #YA #ScienceFiction + fantasy by Rob Bittner @nerdybookclub

Here's a nice recap of "Best of 2016" #kidlit lists from Classroom Bookshelf @sljournal  @HornBook @KirkusReviews etc

Ten Books To Introduce Kids (of any age! Adults, too!) to #Shakespeare by @lostinthree @nerdybookclub  #kidlit

Events and Programs

2017-celebrate-everything-calendar_a83ce7dc-2b3f-4d03-a075-0b4b31e5b0f4This is very fun, w/ quirky holidays every day: Celebrate Everything 2017 Wall Calendar  | I received from @kimandjason 

Gift Guides and Holiday Advice

Ideal Gift Books for the #STEM Lover in All of Us from @RandomlyReading  | #NationalGeographic #Lego + more

How to Give Books that Will Be Loved @5M4B  #GiftGuides | Keep it fun, make it beautiful, + more

Let’s Shine Together | @kimandjason suggests ways to shine some light into the world this holiday season

10 Reasons #Books Make Great #HolidayGifts, from Wendie Old  | Easier to wrap than a hockey stick

Maybe useful for some as holiday gatherings approach: 5 Ways to Cope with a Difficult Person from @raisinghappines 

Growing Bookworms

NancyDrewHow #educators + #parents can harness the Power of a Series to hook kids on #reading Katie Muhtaris @nerdybookclub

Books for Young Advanced Readers - Resources, rules of thumb, + #BookList from @thisreadingmama   #RaisingReaders 

Many American Adults Don't Read, But That Doesn't Mean their Kids Can't Learn  #LoveOfBooks @KenzaMoller @romper 

Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck Explains The ‘False’ #GrowthMindset That Worries Her | @MindShiftKQED  via @drdouggreen

MindsetDeveloping a #GrowthMindset within a Culture of Compliance – fighting habit of praise @ReadByExample  #AlfieKohn

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

I share @medinger 's skepticism about @kinderguides | Monica links here  to @nytimes piece by @xanalter

This makes sense. @DisneyHyperion Announces New Riordan @camphalfblood Imprint devoted to mythology-based #kidlit

Apparently there are "book doctors" who dress in doctor's coats and offer #bibliotherapy Rx  Sarah Sloat @WSJ


FreeRangeKidsStudy finds what people think is judging risk to kids is really making moral judgements of parents @washingtonpost

What Skill Will Help Your Child Succeed at Anything? Working hard, says @lessonsfromyest and I agree 

New Ideas on Teaching Kids #AttitudeOfGratitude during the holidays from Bethany Todd + @LauraBarrEd


"Brave" | kids making their own risk-assessments should be part of childhood | @TheTeacherTom  via @sxwiley #play

#Recess Responses: Challenging 5 Common Excuses for the Removal of Playtime @NotJustCute  via @sxwiley #play

Schools and Libraries

13ReasonsBrave but vital | Teaching Tough Topics – An Exploration into Suicide Prevention for middle schoolers  @pernilleripp 

Nice essay @WSJ on why college students should seek out opportunities to engage with people of different viewpoints

4 Non-Negotiables for #Schools from @gcouros  | I especially like "They stoke curiosity, not extinguish it"

We do not need many $ worth of new tech for #GlobalCollaboration, we can start w/ @twitter says @pernilleripp

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Penguin Problems: Jory John and Lane Smith

Book: Penguin Problems
Author: Jory John
Illustrator: Lane Smith
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-7

PenguinProblemsPenguin Problems, written by Jory John and illustrated by Lane Smith, is the story of a cranky little penguin who complains about everything. When a mature walrus shares some perspective, the penguin considers whether or not a better attitude is warranted. But overall, his personality remains fairly consistent throughout the story. He's like a preschool-age, penguin-shaped version of Alexander of Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day fame. 

The text in Penguin Problems is written in short, punch text, and the problems are those that preschoolers will be able to understand, even in cases where they may not directly relate. Like this (over four pages:

"It snowed some more last night,
and I don't even like the snow.

It's too bright out here.

I'm hungry.
I'd like a fish.
Where are all the fish?!


I'm not buoyant enough.
I sink like a dumb rock."

Buoyant is about as tough as Penguin Problems gets, vocabulary-wise. But can't you just hear the penguin's tone, alternating between whiny and belligerent? 

Lane Smith's illustrations show the penguin as sleepy in his earliest cranky moments of the story. He's also identical-looking to all of the other penguins. This is one of his complaints. The funniest illustration is one in which the penguin laments looking silly when he waddles. There's a page split into four panel. The first three show the penguin tilting in one direction, then another. In the last panel he stands there and says "See?". I snorted with laughter. There's also a funny bit in which he's looking for his parents, but can't find them because all of the penguins look the same. Near the end, when the penguin rails against his many problems, and the fact that "nobody even cares", his slumping posture will be recognized by parents everywhere. 

It's a fact that at least ought to be self-evident that kids like books about penguins. The little unnamed penguin in Penguin Problems has particular appeal, by virtue of his delightfully cranky behavior. And I love the fact that he is NOT, in fact, reformed instantly after being shown the error of his ways. Jory John and Lane Smith make a good team - the interplay between text and illustrations is both seamless and humorous. Penguin Problems belongs in libraries and preschool / kindergarten classrooms everywhere. Recommended!

Publisher:  Random House Children's Books (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: September 27, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).